Drug manufacturer AstraZeneca on Monday said that its potential coronavirus vaccine, which is being developed with Oxford University, has shown more than 70% overall efficacy in a third phase interim trial. The vaccine which was administered in 131 Covid-19 patients, showed 90% and 62% efficacy in two different dose regimens, resulting in an average protection of 70.4%, an official release said.
In a series of tweets, Oxford University said that the partnership hopes to supply 3 billion doses of the vaccine across the world by the end of next year. It added that the vaccine would be a “low cost” one and that it can be stored at refrigerator temperatures and deployed “quickly using existing infrastructure”.
“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against Covid-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” said Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive Officer.
Referring to the dosage that showed 90% efficiency, Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator at the Oxford university, said “more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply” if the regimen is adhered to.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the trial results were “incredibly exciting”. He also praised the vaccine’s developers and volunteers. “Incredibly exciting news news the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials,” he tweeted. “There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results. Well done to our brilliant scientists at the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, and all who volunteered in the trials.”
The UK has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine.
Serum Institute of India Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla welcomed the announcement. His company has teamed up with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to produce more than a billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for global supply.
“I am delighted to hear that, Covishield, a low-cost, logistically manageable and soon to be widely available, COVID-19 vaccine, will offer protection up to 90% in one type of dosage regime and 62% in the other dosage regime,” he tweeted. “Further details on this, will be provided this evening.”
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock also celebrated the “fantastic news”, Sky News reported. “This is really encouraging news of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that obviously we’ve been backing since the start,” he told the news channel.
Hancock added that the data will be reviewed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. “But we’ve got 100 million [10 crore] doses on order and should all that go well, the bulk of the rollout will be in the new year,” he said.
Last week, data from the vaccine’s second stage trial showed that it produced strong immune responses in older adults, who are at greater risk of the infection. Researchers had then said the late-stage or third phase trial results for the vaccine are expected to be released by Christmas.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine vs Moderna and Pfizer’s
The vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the Oxford University is expected to be cheaper and easier to transport and store compared to those of Moderna and Pfizer, though the latter two have shown higher rates of efficacy at 94.5% and 95%, respectively.
Speaking at an event last week, Poonawalla had said that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be priced at a maximum of Rs 1,000 for two necessary doses.
In comparison, the Moderna vaccine be priced between $25 (approximately Rs 1,854) and $37 (approximately Rs 2,744) per dose, depending on the amount ordered by governments, company’s Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel has said.
Additionally, the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit) or below. This will be a challenge for the existing infrastructure in India.
The Oxford vaccine though, could be stored in normal refrigerator temperatures.
India has not signed a deal for a coronavirus vaccine yet so it is unclear when it will be available for use in the country, despite some leaders promising it will be available from as early as January. Availability of the vaccine in India will be subject to approval by domestic regulators, and the Indian government agreeing to purchase them. So far, many other nations including the United States, United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia and Israel have made deals to buy millions of doses of the vaccines.